Protein shakes have long been used by bodybuilders looking to build muscle, but these days using a protein shake as a meal replacement is becoming a popular method of weight loss.
The idea is that a protein shake is an easy and convenient way of cutting out calories, plus you don’t have to consider what to eat. If you replace meals with a shake, it seems that weight loss is guaranteed.
But are there any downsides to this method of weight loss? We uncover everything you need to know about weight-loss/protein shakes.
A weight-loss shake is similar in appearance and texture to an ordinary milkshake. It is always packaged as a powder and to use, you simply add to liquid and drink. Usually, weight-loss shakes are designed to be mixed with milk or a milk substitute, but you can also add them to water.
The main content is composed of protein, this is typically derived from whey, but other proteins, such as pea protein, soy, and even hemp, are also available. The high protein content means that there is some nutritional value, containing most of the amino acids that are most usually found in dietary protein like meat.
Taking a protein shake for weight loss is really about reducing your daily calorie count by using it to replace a meal. Although a weight loss shake is not inherently slimming, it is pretty low calorie in comparison to the average meal. So the idea is that your calorie content will be reduced and you will lose weight.
Protein is certainly important and is not overly fattening, but weight loss shakes are often rich in sweeteners, flavourings, and sugars, which ups the calorie content. In general, they have sweet tempting flavours such as Apple Crumble, Chocolate, or Strawberry, so they can taste just like an ordinary thickened milkshake.
A weight loss shake can be a convenient alternative to a proper meal, but losing weight this can be hard-going and requires a bit of willpower in order to stick to it.
For a meal replacement shake to work you must replace meals with the shakes in order to cut your calorie consumption. Although this sounds easy and obvious, it can be difficult to stick to a regime that requires you to drink a sweet milkshake-type drink in place of ordinary food. Many people find that this is simply too strict to stick to long term.
The problem with many meal replacement regimes is that they can veer dangerously close to fad dieting, ultimately leading to yo-yo weight gain. Once you stop the regime and begin eating normally again, the weight can pile back on.
Where many people find that meal replacement works best is in replacing breakfast with a shake. The protein can provide a more filling breakfast that most of us would otherwise have time for, which should theoretically keep you feeling full until lunchtime.
A meal replacement shake is easy to use and very convenient, but products can vary. A high protein content is crucial; so is avoiding a supplement with too many filler ingredients or with fattening content.
To find the best quality and most effect meal replacement shakes, see our product reviews on Diet Pills Watchdog.
Weight loss shakes are not low calorie drinks. There is nothing slimming about them per se, and if you drink them too often, or do not use them to replace your food, you can actually put on weight.
The shakes are based on protein, usually whey, but soy and pea protein are common alternatives.
Whey protein is a complete protein, which means it contains all the amino acids required by the body. Protein is responsible for many bodily functions, including muscle-building and developing cells and tissue.
Bodybuilders have supplemented their diets with protein supplements for decades because it is essential for building healthy muscle mass, and supplies can become depleted through training and exercise.
Studies have shown that protein also decreases hunger by causing feelings of fullness – 20g of protein has generally been proven to be effective. It increases appetite reducing hormones like ghrelin as well.
Although protein shakes can theoretically aid weight loss by keeping you feeling full and nourishing your body, many meal replacement shakes contain added ingredients that are not as healthy. Some are actually pretty high in sugars and flavourings.
That said, good weight loss shakes can help you lose weight, although they do nothing to help you make lasting changes for long-term weight loss.
Meal replacement shakes are certainly convenient. If you use as directed and replace some of your meals with the shakes, you will probably reduce your calorie intake and lose weight.
People generally find it hard to stick to so-called sensible food choices, and if you are time-pressed or working, often the only food available is high in calories. An advantage of a meal replacement shake is that you don’t have to consider any of this, simply mix the powder with your chosen milk or water, then drink.
A good quality meal replacement shake should make you feel full and satisfied so that you don’t suffer from hunger pangs or miss out on vital nutrition. Many good quality meal replacement shakes include added fibre for this reason, along with vitamins and minerals, so they can actually be healthier than eating a low quality meal or a fattening snack.
The downside is that drinking a meal replacement shake does not help you make healthy food choices. You will miss out on vital nutrients and enzymes that are only available in real food. They may be a good substitute for the odd meal, but they are no replacement for a healthy diet.
The best way to use a meal replacement shake is to combine it with other weight loss methods that you can live with. Replacing all food with a liquid diet of shakes is not advised, despite the meal replacement name, but they can offer support to your plans.
Always ensure that your meal replacement shake is high in protein and is not overly high in sugars and carbs. Look for added vitamins, minerals, and fibre in the ingredients list too, as they will also help sustain your health as you diet.
Meal replacement shakes are mostly safe, but they can cause some common side effects.
Whey protein supplements can cause increased bowel movements, thirst, nausea, and cramps. Some people mention fatigue as a side effect too. A whey-based supplement will not be suitable for you if you are lactose intolerant or have an allergy to cow’s milk.
An alternative is soy protein, but there are some questions regarding long-term use of soy, as there is a belief it can cause tissue problems in the uterus. Allergies can be an issue with some users, and it can also cause constipation, nausea and bloating.
Some meal replacement shakes contain additional ingredients, such as green tea or other herbal extracts. Make sure you check through these if you are sensitive to caffeine or any other ingredients.
Otherwise, meal replacement shakes are generally safe for most users. Just remember that you need to use them in the context of a healthy diet and exercise plan, especially if you are trying to lose weight. A meal replacement shake should not be used to prop up an unhealthy diet or used as a replacement for all food.
If you use it to support your weight loss, replacing one or two meals a day over a short time period, you may find that it helps improve weight loss without too many risks to health.
Some meal replacement shakes can be a waste of money – if they contain low quality ingredients, inadequate protein content, fats, and a high percentage of added sugars and artificial flavourings.
If you are going to use a shake to replace a meal, or even a couple of meals, you need to ensure that it has some benefit to nutrition. If a meal replacement shake does not fill you up and satisfy hunger cravings, you are more likely to cheat on your diet. Eating a meal on top of a meal replacement shake will certainly add to your calorie intake and cause weight gain rather than weight loss.
Swapping a meal which may contain between 500–700 calories for a shake that possibly contains around 300, will obviously save a couple of hundred calories per time. So done right, it can make a difference to your overall intake.
One study showed that test participants who used a partial meal replacement diet lost 5.6lbs more on average than people losing weight by diet alone over a three-month period. One reason for this comes down to simple convenience. If you use a meal replacement shake to replace unhealthier food choices, you will lose weight. Of course, results will largely depend upon your own lifestyle and the type of food that the meal replacement supplement is helping you avoid.
One of the major stumbling blocks to meal replacement shakes is the flavour and the monotony of drinking the same weight loss shake every day. We have reviewed numerous shakes that customers have described as undrinkable, so if you can’t actually face drinking the supplement it will be a waste of money.
Meal replacement shakes are slightly different to protein shakes. A meal replacement shake is designed to provide enough nutrition and energy to replace a missing meal, whereas protein shakes have one job, and that is to boost protein in order to help the body build muscle.
Protein shakes are usually aimed at athletes and bodybuilders. In most cases, the protein content is much higher in a protein shake than a meal replacement, sometimes as much as 40g per serving. In many cases, protein is the sole ingredient.
The type of protein in a protein shake can also differ. As with meal replacement shakes, the protein is typically derived from whey or soy, but there are various different forms of these, like whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate. These are different production methods that contain varying amounts of fats and amino acid content, which is important to bodybuilders as they tend to use protein shakes as a supplement to their training and do not use them to replace a meal.
By contrast, a meal replacement shake does not only contain protein, and in some meal replacement shakes the protein content can be as low as 10g. Meal replacement shakes contain carbohydrates, fats, and often additional minerals, vitamins, and fibre. Essentially, a meal replacement shake is designed to provide a similar nutritional profile to a real meal.
So although protein shakes and meal replacement shakes are similar and usually come in a range of sweet flavours, they are designed for different purposes. A meal replacement shake will not be suitable as a support for muscle building, and a protein supplement is unlikely to provide enough nutritional content to make it suitable as a regular meal.
Drinking protein shakes will not make you magically lose weight. On average, you need 45 to 55 grams of protein a day, depending on your weight and overall health. If you take a supplement aimed at bodybuilders, you will increase your protein intake and put on weight if you are not following an intensive training regime.
Taking a meal replacement shake in place of food is not advisable either. The best way to lose weight is to follow a healthy diet. That way you will not miss out on vital nutrients and all the health benefits of food. Although you could lose weight by using only meal replacement shakes, this does stray into the area of fad dieting. Once you stop this extreme diet, you will put the weight back on.
According to health experts, a meal replacement shake is unlikely to cause any harm if used in combination with diet and exercise, but is not the best way to achieve lasting weight loss.
If you have a balanced diet, increasing your protein content is unnecessary because you will be obtaining sufficient protein by diet. A boiled egg, for example, contains a whopping 13g of protein, the equivalent to the protein content of many meal replacement shakes on the market.
Meal replacement shakes can help with weight loss, but you cannot spot reduce – the weight loss tends to be spread out across your whole body. Belly fat is often the first to go though, simply by means of being the most noticeable and the largest fatty area.
Most of us carry our extra pounds around the belly and it can be dangerous to health. A type of fat called visceral fat may not be as noticeable as our love handles or rolls of belly fat, but it gets in between vital organs and increases the risk of heart disease and other medical problems.
The best way to reduce belly fat is by making dietary and lifestyle changes. For example, exercise; health guidelines suggest doing 30 minutes of exercise five times a week to improve your health and weight loss.
You can’t lose your belly fat by doing abdominal crunches or similar exercises either. Although strengthening your abs may improve body tone, you cannot spot reduce belly fat. It is only through improving your overall health and fitness that your belly fat will disappear.
According to some evidence, increasing protein intake improves weight loss by reducing food cravings. Other clinical tests have established a link between the consumption of good quality protein and reduced belly fat. Your dietary protein should be provided by good quality foods such as fish, eggs, nuts, meat, pulses, and dairy products, rather than by low quality or processed meat products. Increasing fibre content is also important. Obtaining 10g of fibre a day helps reduce visceral fat and improves digestive health.
Protein contains calories, so if you do not burn it off with exercise it will get stored as fat, but this is true of any calories. The recommended daily protein amount is 45g a day for the average adult woman (55g for men), but this varies according to age, weight, and the amount of exercise you do in your daily life.
Most Americans consume far too much protein in their diet, so there is very little need to supplement with a protein shake. Obtaining adequate amounts of fibre is more of a health issue than protein intake.
High protein diets, like keto, are popular and can help cause initial weight loss, but there are very few studies into the long-term health benefits. And although eating a high protein, high fat diet is supposed to help with weight loss, the truth is that it can be a risk to your health.
A high protein diet can contribute to high cholesterol levels and put a strain upon the kidneys, leading to kidney disease. A study carried out in Sweden on 44,000 women with a high protein diet found that over 15 years they were more likely to suffer from strokes and heart attacks.
Although the recent craze for high protein and low carb diets can be effective for short-term weight loss, a mixed balanced diet is the healthiest option.
Now we have looked at some of the facts surrounding weight loss shakes, let’s take a look at some of the most popular products on the market.
XLS Nutrition Meal Replacement Shake totals 250 calories per serving if you add the powder to milk. It is available in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavours.
The supplement contains a blend of soy protein and whey protein, plus added vitamins. Each serving provides 30g of protein, so it should feel reasonably filling. Less good is the 15.6g of sugar. According to the product information, it is a complete meal replacement when added to milk.
The idea is that you use the shake to replace up to three of your daily meals. However, as each tub of powder is only sufficient for 10 servings, this will be expensive if used more than once a day.
You can buy XLS Nutrition Meal Replacement Shake from a wide range of outlets, so you can shop around for price. In general, it costs around £16.00 for a tub (10 servings).
Feedback is generally good, but there are some complaints about texture and flavour. There is no money-back guarantee.
See our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/xls-nutrition/
Cute Nutrition Weight Loss Shake is a meal replacement shake aimed at women. It comes in a range of very sweet flavours, including peaches and cream, and strawberry milkshake.
There is very little ingredient information, so although it is described as a perfect blend, we only have Cute Nutrition’s word for that. The powder contains 130 calories per serving, but you have to factor in the calories from the milk on top of that.
Cute Nutrition Weight Loss shake is not that expensive. Each tub contains 500g, which should be enough for two week’s use (at two servings per day) and costs £16.00 from the official website, plus shipping.
Weirdly, Cute Nutrition offers refunds if you post a bad review and then change it. There is no money-back guarantee on offer though.
Check out our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/cute-nutrition-weight-loss-shake/
Bootea is a British company best known for their detox and slimming teas. In keeping with their other products, Bootea Shake contains green tea as well as protein. It is available in three flavours but, according to many customers, all of them are disgusting.
There is a lack of real information about the ingredients in Bootea Shake. All we really know is the protein is provided by whey protein concentrate, that there are a lot of thickeners and emulsifiers, such as soy lecithin, and there is added green tea extract.
Each serving is equal to 30g, but with zero information about the individual ingredients it is impossible to judge its efficacy. It may contain caffeine, but this is not disclosed. Each serving contains 115 calories, but that is without including calories from the milk that you add it to.
Bootea Shake is available in banana, vanilla, or chocolate flavours. Most customers have described them all as tasting vile.
You can buy Bootea Shake from a range of outlets in the UK, including the official website. It costs around £22.75 for a tub of 30 servings. There is a free diet plan included, but the Bootea App costs extra. There is no money-back guarantee either.
See our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/bootea-shake/
Women’s Best Body Slim Shake contains pea protein, rice protein, soy protein, and hemp protein, plus a super greens blend. According to the advertising, replacing two meals a day with the shake will give you the body you want.
Despite the interesting ingredients profile, there are no quantities provided. It is available in 11 flavours.
The shake may cause side effects, including rapid heart rate, tremors, gastric issues, diarrhoea, and insomnia.
You can buy via the Women’s Best website where it costs £36.99 for a tub of 36 servings. There is no money-back guarantee.
Feedback is mixed and includes complaints about the sickly flavours.
See the full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/womens-best-slim-body-shake
Invigor8 Superfood Shake is an expensive supplement that looks like several products rolled into one. It is a protein shake combined with a nootropic, supergreens supplement, digestive blend, probiotic, immunity booster, and more.
The purpose of Invigor8 Superfood Shake is not very clear. It is supposed to crush hunger and provide a general boost to health and mental wellbeing, but with just 20g per serving the protein content is fairly low.
There are 25 individual ingredients contained in the shake. With so many unproven herbal ingredients, side effects such as abdominal pains, diarrhoea, nausea, and allergic reactions could be an issue.
Invigor8 Superfood Shake is expensive. It costs $70.00 for a bottle of 15 servings if you buy via Amazon. The website is slightly cheaper, but you are encouraged to join auto-shipping, which may be difficult to cancel and is never something we recommend.
There is a high level of customer feedback, but the taste is an issue with many people and very few comments mention weight loss.
There is a 90-day guarantee but you have to jump through hoops in order to claim it.
Read our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/invigor8-superfood-shake/
FitTeam Fit is slightly different to other meal replacement shakes in that it is packaged as sticks that you add to water and drink.
Based in Florida, FitTeam Global LLC is a well-known multi-level marketing company (MLM) similar in operation to Plexus and Herbalife.
The product contains nine ingredients in a propriety blend of just 580mg, so it is not strong. This is just as well, as ingredients include the stimulants citrus aurentium and caffeine anhydrous, which are potentially dangerous for some users. Other ingredients include green tea, Garcinia cambogia, and L theanine.
Side effects could be an issue as FitTeam Fit contains grapefruit extract, so if you are taking prescription medication you need to stay away from this product.
FitTeam Fit is expensive. It costs $66.99 for a pack of 30 sticks via the website. We have seen it on sale via eBay from FitTeam distributors for as little as $24 and as much as $75.00 via Amazon.
There is no money-back guarantee and no genuine customer feedback. Most positive comments online come from FitTeam distributors who are trying to sell it.
See the full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/fitteam-fit/
Stripfast 5000 Strip Shake combines milk and soy protein with some diet pill ingredients, vitamins, and minerals.
According to the advertising, Stripfast 5000 Strip Shake will limit your calorie intake if you use it as a meal replacement, as well as increase fat burning.
The protein is derived from various milk proteins, as well as soy protein isolate. There is conjugated linoleic acid (also milk-derived), which may help fat burning. Other ingredients include green tea, minerals and vitamins, and amino acids.
Stripfast 5000 Strip Shake is expensive. Buy from the website and it costs £37.00 per 2.5kg tub. Information is not provided regarding serving size. The good news is that there is a 100% money-back guarantee on offer. You are advised to contact the company for details.
There is not much positive feedback. Many customers report it does not work. Some people say it tastes bad. Side effects also seem to be a problem for some users.
Read our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/stripfast-5000-strip-shake/
Olly Slim Protein Powder is a weight loss shake that claims to kick start your body into weight loss. It is available in salted caramel or sweet vanilla flavour.
The powder contains 18g of protein per serving and is based on pea protein and flaxseed. This low serving size does not look very satisfying as a meal replacement. However, there are additional minerals and vitamins, plus a prebiotic fibre.
We are not impressed with the high quantity of filler ingredients, salt, sweeteners, carbs, and flavourings either – these make up 50% of the powder.
Olly Slim Protein Powder is expensive. If you buy from the Olly website it costs $27.99 for a tub of 15 servings, where it is confusingly called Slim Boost. You can also find it on Amazon and other outlets for anything between $28 and $54.
Customer opinion is mixed and very few people have mentioned weight loss. There is no money-back guarantee.
Read the full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/olly-slim-protein-powder/
ICONFIT Diet Shake is a meal replacement shake that is available in strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla flavour.
The protein content is pretty high, at 55g per serving. The protein is provided by whey protein concentrate, and there is also fibre from fruit, sugars, and pysllium husk, so it could work as a prebiotic and be generally good for digestive health.
There is also green tea, vitamins, and minerals. Disappointingly, individual ingredient quantities are not provided.
You are advised to replace two of your meals with the supplement and eat an ordinary balanced meal for your third meal each day.
You can buy ICONFIT Diet Shake from Amazon, where it costs £16.00 for 14 sachets. This is only a seven-day supply though, making it expensive for long-term use.
Customers are generally positive about the shake, although there are complaints about the flavour. It could be hard going for long-term use, but side effects don’t seem to be an issue. ICONFIT Diet Shake is not covered by a money-back guarantee.
See the full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/iconfit-diet-shake/
Harvey & Coco Slinky Shake is a meal replacement shake that comes in a choice of four flavours. You are advised to replace breakfast and lunch with the shakes in order to lose weight.
Slinky Shake contains 23g of a blend of whey protein concentrate, soy protein, and milk protein. There are additional weight loss ingredients including taurine, green tea extract, and CLA powder. There is also a vitamin and mineral blend. The ingredient quantities are mostly provided, but there are some filler ingredients, which are not fully disclosed.
Customer opinion is mainly positive, although there are some complaints about the flavour and consistency of the shake.
Harvey & Coco Slinky Shake is not too expensive. Buy from the official site and it costs £20 for a tub containing 23 servings. UK shipping is free and costs £4.95 for the rest of the world.
You are encouraged to sign up to auto-shipping. This is something we never advise you do, particularly as there are countless complaints about the customer service department. There is a money-back guarantee offered, but customers have complained that the company has not responded to requests.
Read our full review here: https://www.dietpillswatchdog.com/harvey-coco-slinky-shake/
There is nothing slimming about protein shakes. In fact, they are often used by bodybuilders to put on weight. They are good for this purpose, but not as a weight-loss aid.
Meal-replacement shakes aren’t necessarily slimming either. In general, they contain around 200 calories – more once the milk content is factored in. So although this is quite low when compared to a meal, it is calorie high for a drink.
A common problem with meal replacement shakes is that this method of weight loss requires a lot of willpower. Replacing a balanced meal with a sweet milkshake is not a healthy method of weight loss.
As you can see from our reviews, weight loss shakes can vary. If you do decide to go down the meal replacement route, make sure you choose a shake which is high in protein so that it will fill you up. This is the main requirement for a meal replacement, and a shake that is low in protein is more likely to leave you feeling hungry and susceptible to snacking later in the day. So you’re probably better off choosing a product that advertises itself as a protein shake, not as a meal-replacement shake, then adding some fruit into the mix along with the milk.
Some weight loss drinks are not based on protein and are just a drink alternative to diet pills. Read through the ingredients list of these because in many cases these are just novelty products with no evidence that they work.
There are some good products out there though and they can work for some people. In our opinion, a good quality weight loss shake may be OK for an occasional meal replacement but is not a realistic method for long-term use.